2012 It List
Meet 16 NH notables who are working it
Photo © Dale May/Corbis Online
Meet 16 New Hampshire notables who are working it.
Some stay close to home, others make their marks elsewhere, and Seth Meyers keeps the world smiling while broadcasting live from New York at "Saturday Night Live".
The annual It List is New Hampshire Magazine's version of "People of the Year" awards for the Granite State. Some of our It Listers are famous, but not all of them. The one thing that they do share, however, is that they are movers and shakers with great stories. You might not have heard of many of these people but once you're done reading our list, you'll be glad that you're acquainted with them now.
May we introduce you?
Seth Meyers | Jane Difley | Kimberley Smith Quirk | Charlie Burke | Justice David Souter | Keri Wiederspahn | Jackson Nicoll | Annmarie Timmins | Guor Marial | Douglas Darrell | Kelly Ayotte | Joe Hill | Ben Cherington | Christiana Thornton | Joe Deleault | Victoria Arlen
Seth Meyers, head writer for "Saturday Night Live" and faux-news host of their staple Weekend Update segment is no stranger to our "It List." In fact he appeared on the cover of the first issue featuring this now-eagerly-awaited annual gallery in 2006. And to prove he was a mensch, he even donned a special T-shirt we'd made just for the photo op. More recently (in June) he returned to his hometown of Bedford to perform at a sold-out fundraiser for the Bedford Education Foundation (they raised $75,000).** But it's not because he's such a nice guy that Meyers is a repeat It Lister. It's because he has turned being nice into a poignant political statement. In an age in which satire has grown almost indistinguishable from character assassination, Meyers' cheerful jabs at political absurdity provide the water-cooler banter suitable to both the MSNBC freak and the Fox News junkie. Liberal bias? Well, duh. But you never sense an iota of hostility. He proudly claims New York as his dream city but never fails to give a shout-out to his old home state of New Hampshire. It's that ability to straddle two worlds and maintain a balance of honesty and earnestness that made him the perfect headliner at the 2011 White House Correspondents' Association dinner. When asked about the unusual number of successful comics to have emerged from New Hampshire, he credits the state's penchant for straight talk: "The best comedy is honest, and some of the best, most honest comedians have come out of here."
People Magazine also named Seth Meyers the hottest celeb from New Hampshire in their 2012 United States of Sexy poll.
**Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the organization as the Bedford Teachers Foundation.
Speaking for the Trees
Photo by Chelsea Pathiakis
It might be 111 years old, but it's still full of fight. For the last year, the Society for the Protection of NH Forests — headed by President/Forester Jane Difley — has been battling against a project that Difley says threatens the state's scenery, protected lands and the economy. The project is the Northern Pass transmission line that would connect Canadian hydro electric power with the New England power grid. "It's bad for all of New Hampshire," Difley says, and she gives statistics to back up that assessment. The proposed 180-mile transmission corridor — with towers up to 135 feet tall — could visually impact 95,000 acres in the state, including many acres in the White Mountain National Forest and other protected land. The line would criss-cross Route 93 six times from north of Concord through the White Mountains. "That would be the welcome to New Hampshire for tourists," she says. "For those who visit here, who live here and love it, the landscape is not just a backdrop for where we recreate. It defines who we are and what we think about the world, and it's also the basis for our economy. It's not something that should be discarded lightly." She's hoping the developers of the line will consider less-damaging options but, in the meantime, she and the Society are fighting the project however they can, including raising money to offer impacted landowners a conservation alternative to selling.
Kimberley Smith Quirk
Quirks's career in energy efficiencies started simply enough with the purchase of a second-hand Prius in 2003. As a Dartmouth College grad with a master's degree in electrical engineering, she loved the area and left Boston in 2009 to purchase a historical property in Enfield — an old tannery homestead that could have been torn down. Instead she considered the "embodied energy" — all the resources, human and machine, that have gone into the building — and decided to preserve it. Now it's her home and retail store, the "Energy Emporium." The structure is also a model for renewable energy usage and it exceeds LEED specifications with a zero net-energy requirement for heat and electrical usage. By using more insulation, solar thermal collectors and a huge insulated water storage tank she is able to preserve the heat of summer and use it when necessary in winter. In addition, an array of solar electric collectors provide backup heat and electricity that can be sold back to the electric company in summer. Quirk and her project have become a point of light in the community for sharing the knowledge base, workshops and hardware for energy savings needs. "It's not rocket science" she says, "it just takes current technology, knowhow and persistence to get all the pieces working together." Recently she was asked to give a presentation to the National Historic Trust on the radical concept of preserving an old structure and making it energy efficient too.
Photo by Jo Burke
This retired chief of surgery could be sitting on a rocker taking in the view from his Sanbornton home. Instead he's on the road or on his computer 30 hours a week connecting farmers with chefs seeking local products for the New Hampshire Farm to Restaurant Connection.
His quest began through his own backyard plot of arugula — too much arugula, so he headed to the local farmers market. Seeing a need for organization he organized the NH Farmers' Market Association along with Jack Potter. A few years later, Gail McWilliam Jellie, director of the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, suggested the time was ripe to connect farmers directly with chefs, and the New Hampshire Farm to Restaurant Connection was formed in 2005 with Burke at the helm — as a volunteer.
Demand has increased to source local and Burke wanted the truly committed to get recognition. His Certified Local program built steam this year and 10 restaurants have passed the rather strict requirements. "It's important to know where your food comes from and at the same time preserve the rural character of the state by supporting small family farms," says Burke. "We made progress in the last five years, but there is still much to do," he adds. In February he will be giving a seminar on the certification process at the Farm and Forest Expo for farmers and chefs wanting to get involved.
Justice David Souter
It's well known that David Souter is an intensely private person so it's no surprise that, since he retired from the US Supreme Court three years ago, he's rarely been seen by the public. But it seems there is one issue that can get him up on a stage in front of more than a thousand people and speaking with passion — civics education. In September Souter told the crowd gathered for a "Constitutionally Speaking" event that he's worried that the greatest threat to the country won't come from foreign invasion or military coup, but from what he described as Americans' "pervasive civic ignorance." He pointed to surveys that show two-thirds of the people don't even know there are three branches of government. "This is how democracy dies," he said. He feels civic education, mostly ignored in schools for decades, should be reinstated and that adults who didn't have the benefit of instruction about government should be educated as well. To help make that happen, he has joined forces with others in the state to create the NH Institute of Civic Education.
Photo by Susan Laughlin
Keri Wiederspahn has only been at the helm of the Sharon Arts Center in Sharon/Peterborough for the past year and a half, but she has already emboldened the center's mission to support local artists and widen the embrace of the "beholders."
Last year she started a CSArts project based on the idea of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Shareholders were invited to prepay for art, sight unseen, from a stable of nine pre-selected artists. Artists were given financial reward and participants were given ownership of original art. Since they had no idea of what they were purchasing, the element of surprise was part of the package deal and part of the fun. This holiday a similar program is being floated. Ten pieces for $350 a share for everything from photography to ceramics. Wiederspahn also recently initiated an alliance between the New Hampshire Institute of Art in Manchester and the Sharon Arts Center. In this new scenario the Institute's programs, including a new MFA degree, will expand to include the use of the Sharon Arts facilities in Sharon and Peterborough for course offerings and exhibitions. The new MFA degree program, to be based in Peterborough, will allow for "cross fertilization" of teaching talent and enhance and further invigorate the broader arts scene in the region and beyond.
Wiederspahn is a mother of five children with the youngest just turning 4 and the oldest 18. In her spare time she paints religious icons, an ancient Byzantine art form. She's more than an advocate, she is an artist too.
Photo by P.T. Sullivan
The flight of a child star is often like that of a meteor: a sudden appearance, a brilliant arc across the public view, then a return to obscurity (or worse) just a few years later. For young actor Jackson Nicoll that's not likely since even as his star-power has begun to grow bright, Nicoll's close family is keeping him grounded in his home in Seabrook. Nicoll made his first big impression acting alongside Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale as Little Dicky, the son of washed-up Lowell boxer Dicky Eklund in David O. Russell's "The Fighter." This was followed by another small but juicy role in the Russell Brand (and Helen Mirren) remake of "Arthur" and then a leading role in the teen-oriented 2012 Halloween flick "Fun Size." By all appearances his star is still rising, with some recent public appearances alongside actor Johnny Knoxville who happens to be at work on his latest "Jackass" film (number 4!). Meanwhile, Nicoll's mom, April, is keeping tight lips on what's next and a tight rein on this little shooting star.
View a Q&A with Jackson Nicoll from the February 2011 issue of New Hampshire Magazine.
Photo by Andrea Morales
"I was shocked, angry about it" — that's how Annmarie Timmins reacted to being barred from a news conference held this past summer by NH House Speaker William O'Brien. She's been a reporter at the Concord Monitor for 20 years, most recently a political reporter, and had never experienced anything like it. But that was just the beginning — since then she has had absolutely no access to the Speaker's office. She doesn't get press releases, phone calls are not returned, there's no communication at all. "I am cut out of a really important office," she says. "The Speaker has made more news than anyone at the Statehouse and I can't get access." The reason? A staffer in the Speaker's office told Timmins that the Monitor had crossed the line of professional journalism by running a political cartoon that showed the Speaker with a Hitler mustache. The staffer also said that when the paper became a responsible media outlet, they would again be invited to events. There's little question the Speaker's ban has a chilling effect on the media; other reporters don't want to lose access to the Speaker. It also raises First Amendment questions. Timmins hopes the situation can be resolved but, if that doesn't happen, the paper could be speaking to a lawyer about, as she put it, "the best strategy going forward. " In light of the recent election, though, that might not be necessary.
Running on Empathy
Officially marathon runner Guor Marial was an Olympian without a country, but as far as he was concerned, he was there to represent South Sudan and to offer hope to his fellow refugees around the world. As a child, Marial survived the Sudanese Civil War that claimed much of his family, eventually escaping to Egypt and then to Concord. Marial qualified for the 2012 London Games, but found himself in a sort of citizenship limbo — he wasn't yet a US citizen and South Sudan was not recognized by the International Olympic Committee. The IOC recommended Marial just join the Sudanese team, but he refused to accept that seemingly easy solution, feeling that he'd be betraying his family, the war's many victims and other refugees. At nearly the last moment, the IOC relented and allowed him to compete as an independent athlete.
View Editor Rick Broussard's Q&A with Guor Marial from the September 2012 issue of New Hampshire Magazine.
He was just doing what comes naturally to a practicing Rastafarian, growing some spiritual medicine on his property, when a police helicopter happened to spot what looked to them like a patch of a Schedule 1 drug known as marijuana. Douglas Darrell was arrested, his plants confiscated and he was scheduled for trial. Hoping to clear the case from the docket, the judge offered a series of increasingly more lenient penalties in exchange for a guilty plea, but for Darrell this was more than just a legal matter, it was a matter of religious faith and freedom. With his attorney, Mark Sisti, he faced the full impact of the laws against manufacturing an illegal drug, and there was nothing but a jury standing between him and up to seven years of jail time. Finally after a three-and-a-half-year process the jury determined that he acted without criminal intent and that he posed no threat to himself or his community. Using a law recently signed by Gov. John Lynch allowing juries to nullify laws with unjust consequences, he was acquitted and has quietly resumed his business of building harps and drums and repairing pianos from his home in Ctr. Barnstead.
She made Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's short list of potential running mates and scored a prime-time speaking role at her party's national convention this summer. Not bad for a junior United States Senator serving her freshman term. Just two years ago when Kelly Ayotte ran for public office for the first time, heavyweights John McCain, Sarah Palin and Romney came to New Hampshire to campaign for her; this year she was on the national trail as a surrogate for the top of the ticket. The 44-year-old working mother, who is an up-and-comer on the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee and is staunchly conservative on all of the hot-button social and military issues, continues to grow in popularity not only in New Hampshire but with her party's faithful across the country. Look for her rising star to shine in future elections as well. In the meantime, though, Election Night 2012 left her as the last Republican standing among the state's most important offices. She also helps make history by being part of the first all-female Congressional delegation.
Photo by P.T. Sullivan
If you find Joe Hill's blend of fantasy and horror creepy on paper, imagine what dark, twisted things could be born of a film adaptation. Fans of our resident horror/graphic novel/comic book author won't have to imagine for long as Hill's gothic, supernatural thriller (and wickedly fun) "Horns" is currently in production starring a name you might be familiar with — Daniel Radcliffe. Hill first garnered praise with his award-winning collection of short stories "20th Century Ghosts," which he followed up with the excellent and terrifying "Heart-Shaped Box." "Horns" came out in 2010 and quickly cemented Hill's status as a modern horror master. Visit Hill's Tumblr (joehillsthrills.tumblr.com) for photos from his October visit to the set of "Horns."
Photo courtesy of the Boston Red Sox
Ben Cherington, who grew up in Meriden and pitched for the Lebanon High School and Amherst College baseball teams, realized his lifelong dream when he was promoted to executive vice president and general manager of the Boston Red Sox before the 2012 season. But during the year the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park was celebrated, the team struck out with the fans, finishing with its worst record since 1965. The litany of failures was chronicled by the media while Cherington took considerable heat. In a post-season State of the Red Sox Nation address he said, "I'll do whatever I possibly can to restore the team to what our ownership and fans deserve. It's been hard on all of us." After engineering the blockbuster deal that unloaded $250 million from the player payroll and hiring new manager John Farrell, Cherington gets another crack at bat.
Banking on Tomorrow
She's energetic, dynamic and knows her way around the Statehouse, so the New Hampshire Bankers Association promoted Christiana Thornton to president of the trade organization in January. Not only is she the first woman and the youngest person to hold the reins of the state's chief banking industry lobbyist, at 31 she's the youngest president of any banking trade organization in the country and one of only six women at the top. After serving as former US Senator John E. Sununu's Washington-based legislative aide responsible for banking and housing policy for six years, Thornton and her husband returned to the Granite State to start their family. The mother of two young children brings a fresh perspective to an industry that's been under the heat lamp lately. "This is a very busy time with so many changes in the federal banking regulations," she said. "We are fortunate that New Hampshire has remained very strong during the economic downturn as opposed to other states."
Connecting the Notes
Music is all about connections: connecting a melody to lyrics, connecting a performer to an audience. Manchester's Joe Deleault has been a local connection for many others for the past 15 years, composing, playing keyboards and performing as a session musician for stars like Jon Bon Jovi, but his own music aspirations were basically going nowhere. As his 35th birthday approached he decided to give it one more year and then, if nothing changed, relegate music to a hobby. And rather than waiting for connections to take place he started making them himself, first reaching out to Lakes Region writer and director Ernest Thompson about some music for Thompson's famous play, "On Golden Pond." This led to Thompson hiring Deleault as music director, working with artists like Joan Osborne and Natalie MacMaster for his latest movie "Heavenly Angle," currently in trials to appear at the Sundance Film Festival. It also connected him with Carly Simon, who limoed up from Martha's Vineyard for a weekend to record a new song for "On Golden Pond." He's now in touch with Bonnie Raitt and Alison Krauss about other projects, working on a new folk album with Natalie MacMaster and touring with Mighty Sam McClain and Iranian singer Mahsa Vahdat for their new album. Connections are like opportunities, says Deleaut. "And opportunities are always there. The important thing is what you do with them."
Photo courtesy of the International Paralympic Committee
Many would look at Exeter's 17-year-old Victoria Arlen and see only what's she's lost, but Arlen has a different philosophy. Instead of dwelling on what she doesn't have, the use of her legs, Arlen focuses on what she's got — and, among many other admirable things, that turns out to be a huge talent in the water. At the 2012 London Paralympic Games she won four swimming medals — three silvers and a gold — and set the world record in the 100-meter freestyle. Her journey began in 2006 when she succumbed to a rare disease, transverse myelitis, which left her in a coma for three years. Proving she was unable to give up even then, Arlen awoke, learned to eat and talk again, and eventually returned to both school and the pool. Now Arlen (who is also a motivational speaker, actress and model) has four Paralympic medals to her name, her very own day as declared by Gov. John Lynch (September 21) and will graduate from high school on time with honors.